Suchita Salwan
Guest Article

Everyone is an influencer, everything is influenced...

The Next Big Thing in Influencer Marketing? Your Real Customers.

Influencer marketing may be all the buzz right now, but this strategy has driven brand awareness and impact for companies large and small for ages. What used to be a budget parked for only Bollywood/Hollywood biggies, influencer marketing budgets are now being distributed amongst the cool-kids of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

Everyone is an influencer, everything is influenced...

Suchita Salwan

So, what does it take to get an influencer marketing strategy right? Send a bunch of free products to 100 bloggers and get them to post about you? That's so 2012 - and for a couple of reasons.

One - Everyone does it. It could be your brands' headphones today, another brands' headphones tomorrow - where's the exclusivity?

Two - Organic is not a thing anymore. Even platforms like Instagram are choking up and 'hearts' and public engagement needs to be targeted and acquired.

Three - One post doesn't do much. Repeated, recurring content drives long-term impact. And that's going to cost you.

We've worked with 2000+ brands, done 'influencer marketing' for our own web and app product; and I've interacted with dozens of CMOs and Brand Managers over the past year, trading notes and performance metrics. Here's what I've learnt:

1. Think Community Marketing:

Don't treat influencers as only people with followers - you'll end up making short-term investments with negligible returns. Numbers can be bought, followers may not be real or relevant (not always an influencers' fault - platforms are getting broader and more crowded), and public engagement is on the decline while direct messages and peer-to-peer communication is on the rise.

Work with influencers who actually align with your brand - what are your key brand philosophies. What are the 2-3 principles or core values you want your users to resonate with? Pick and choose influencers who can be in that community.

Learn from: GoPro, Nykaa. The best example in the world is Nike - especially their 'Call me crazy' and 'Better for it' campaigns.

Community marketing isn't just about influencers who have millions of followers. Community marketing begins with your real customers, which brings me to my next point....

2. Make Your Evangelists do the Heavy Lifting for You:

No one loves your brand more than your most frequent customers and users and the key to any successful brand-building exercise is getting this cohort to become your amplifiers. I absolutely love what Glossier has done by making their customers the centre of their communication on their website, in their stores, on their social media, and in their campaigns (check out their Body Hero campaign).

Learn from: Strava, LinkedIn, Beyonce's (she's a brand, not just a musician) campaign around her song 'Let It Go'.

And, whenever you work with your users or a blue tick profile on social media, think long term.

3. Long-Term Agreements, Long-Term Commitment

The people who evangelise your brand count when they evangelise your brand over a period of time. I'm a big believer in incentivising for the long-term - attention is limited, loyalty is loose and reach is waning. Your only guarantee for being top-of-mind is having your community talk about you, ever so organically and every so often.

Incentivising doesn't always have to be paid - think of things like insider access (giving select user's access to new launches or products before everyone else), access to complementary categories and using 'free' offline experiences as a way to generate content for the brand.

Learn from: Revolve, Bira

4. Diversify, Diversify, Diversify:

An influencer isn't only your user, a key opinion leader or an Instagrammer - think outside the box! For example, Ikea. Their recent campaign that showcases iconic and influential homes (like Rachel and Monica's home in FRIENDS) is a great example of extending influence to themes, shows and topics of public interest.

Another mistake I've seen brands make is go after the easiest, biggest influencer they can find or the one most obvious to their category. If you're a beauty brand, don't just target fashion and beauty people - every other beauty brand will be doing the same. Chalk out your niche and own it.

Learn From: Allbirds, which didn't target athletes, health-nuts or lifestyle people (which would have been the most obvious choice for a shoe brand) - it went straight after Silicon Valley folks.

The author of this article Suchita Salwan is founder & CEO, LBB (Little Black Book)

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